Auto Braking Agreement Moves Forward

A voluntary agreement between automakers and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was announced last week. The agreement concerns automatic braking technology in new vehicles. Several major car manufacturers, including Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Volkswagen, Honda and more than a dozen others have agreed to include the technology as standard equipment in nearly all new vehicles by 2022. Critics and supporters lined up to comment on the agreement.

Automatic braking as a technology has proven to be effective in preventing car accidents and injuries. Supporters of the accord cited studies showing that rear-end accidents would be reduced 40 percent by auto braking technology. Critics likewise touted the benefits of the technology while questioning the timing and enforceability of the arrangement. The technology is on the market now, but is not necessarily standard equipment. Where auto braking is available, it is often included in expensive add-on packages. Making the equipment standard would greatly increase the impact of the safety devices.

The NHTSA has, in the past, compelled the auto industry to adopt safety equipment. The current head of the NHTSA said that, by entering into a voluntary pact instead of pursuing the normal regulatory process, the technology would be introduced more quickly. He estimated that this pact shaved three years off the time it would have taken to pursue a legislative solution.

There is no doubt that there would be fewer car accidents if every car had automatic braking. It is difficult if not impossible to predict just how quickly the technology would be adopted in the absence of NHTSA intervention. If consumers demanded automatic braking, car companies would incorporate it quickly. The voluntary agreement could speed the process, or it could give car companies an excuse to drag their feet. There does not appear to be any penalty involved if a car company ignores their pledge. In the end, what matters is the health and safety of the driving public.

Source: The Detroit News, “NHTSA, DOT make automatic braking standard by 2022,” by Michael Martinez, 17 March 2016

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